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VICTOR JOECKS: All vote by mail, ballot harvesting are an invitation to fraud

Updated August 4, 2020 - 9:17 pm

Donald Trump and Harry Reid were both wrong about the terrible elections bill that Nevada Democrats just passed.

On Monday, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill making November’s election vote by mail. It also legalized ballot harvesting and further guts signature verification. The president weighed in, rightly identifying the problem but bungling the details.

“In an illegal late night coup, Nevada’s clubhouse Governor made it impossible for Republicans to win the state,” he tweeted. “Post Office could never handle the Traffic of Mail-In Votes without preparation. Using Covid to steal the state.”

Trump is correct that this election bill makes it much easier to commit election fraud. But adding two additional pieces of mail per active voter — a ballot sent and returned — isn’t going to break the postal system. Perhaps most noticeably, “clubhouse governor” is a subpar nickname.

“Donald J. Trump has no integrity and no scruples,” Harry Reid responded in a statement. That’s rich coming for a politician who once bragged about the effectiveness of his baseless lie about Mitt Romney avoiding the income tax. He said Trump is really upset “because Democrats made it easier for people to vote.”

You don’t need to agree with everything Trump said to critique Reid or this problematic bill.

The biggest red flag is that it legalizes ballot harvesting, which allows campaign workers to collect ballots from voters. In theory, this makes it easier to vote because voters don’t have to mail their own ballots. But it also makes it much easier to commit election fraud. Allowing paid political operatives to have access to ballots is problematic.

It’s possible nothing illegal will occur. But election officials can’t guarantee it.

Reid was once asked if there was a line he wouldn’t cross when it comes to political warfare. “I don’t know what that line would be,” Reid said. Yes, there’s reason to worry that someone in the Nevada Democratic Party — the political apparatus that Reid built — would cross the line to win.

Democrats should be concerned, too. If Trump is as devious as Reid claims, he’d direct his campaign to harvest ballots in heavily Democrat areas. One of his operatives could simply burn them.

The potential for fraud isn’t just limited to the presidential race. The race for state Supreme Court between Douglas Herndon and Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo is the most important Nevada contest on the ballot. Several legislative races could determine if Democrats have super majorities in both houses and can raise taxes at will.

Some of those contests will likely come down to a few hundred votes. Ballot harvesting shenanigans could swing the result. Good thing politics attracts only the most honest people.

Mailing out ballots to every voter is problematic, too. In 2005, former president Jimmy Carter co-chaired a commission on elections that concluded, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” The report warned of several potential problems: an increase in voter intimidation, vote-buying schemes or blank ballots being intercepted. The last one is especially concerning, because Democrats further weakened signature verification. It’s no longer enough for county workers to believe a signature doesn’t match what’s on file. Now, they must identify “multiple, significant and obvious” differences.

Translated: Don’t worry about accuracy. Count the ballot whether the signature matches or not.

Election integrity is foundational to our political system. A lack of identified fraud isn’t evidence fraud didn’t happen. People who commit multiple felonies are unlikely to brag about it. It’s crucial to have confidence that, while you may not like that the opposing political party prevailed, there’s no way the other side could have cheated.

No matter who wins in November, election officials can’t assure you of that.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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